A Battle of Quarterbacks: Eli Manning vs. Matt Ryan

Jim Mancari , Contributor

Two of the NFL’s top quarterbacks will square off Sunday in Atlanta: Eli Manning and Matt Ryan. Both players addressed the media in anticipation of the game.

Manning acknowledged that the Falcons are a tough team to beat at home, having won 10 straight in their own building.

“I think it just starts with just they’re a good team and so they do a good job of making plays and being sharp,” Manning said. “Their offense seems like it does a lot of changing plays and getting into the right calls based on the defense and of course anytime they can be loud and show you different looks on the defensive side and make it difficult for the quarterback to change protection and those types of things puts them in any advantage.”

Ryan meanwhile is aware that the Falcons’ offensive line will have to protect him against the Giants’ defensive front, although Big Blue’s front four has not been as effective this season as in years past.

“I think the Giants’ (front four) is probably one of the best in the league,” Ryan said. “I think they’ve got probably three top-tier pass-rushers that are as good as anybody. We know it from having played against them last year.”

Speaking of last year, Ryan and the Falcons sure haven’t forgotten the 24-2 drubbing at the hands of the Giants in last year’s wild card round. But last year’s loss really has no bearing on this weekend’s game.

“Last year is done,” Ryan said. “Obviously they had a great run last year in the playoffs and were carrying a lot of momentum. I think they’re a different football team this year; we’re a different football team this year. That’s more of where my focus is.”

Now that they’re a different football team, Ryan expects different results this year against the Giants.

“We’ve got a handful of different guys, especially on defense,” he said. “That’s helped us this year; our defense has played very well. Offensively, we’ve got a lot of the same guys back. I think we’re a more mature football team than we were last year and a more experienced football team.”

Manning said he’s pleased that his team has played good football these past few weeks in a tough stretch, despite not winning every game.

“There’s definitely room for improvement in a lot of areas and we’ll continue to do that, but I think everybody has the right mindset and great confidence right now,” Manning said. “But the mindset is we’ve got to work on some things.”

Both quarterbacks realize that it will take a complete effort to beat the other team. The game has huge playoff implications, more so for the Giants since the Falcons have already clinched a postseason berth. But Atlanta is playing for a first-round bye.

“We’re going to have to play our best football,” Manning said.” There’s no question we’re going to have to protect the football and convert on third downs and score points. So we’re going to have to play a smart game but also play very well.”

“I’m sure that they’ll be giving us their absolute very best as everybody does at the end of the year,” Ryan said. “But we need to concentrate on playing our very best because some of the things that we set out to achieve at the beginning of the season are still there for us in the regular season.”

See which quarterback will have the upper hand this Sunday at 1 p.m.

Follow Jim Mancari on Twitter @JMMancari.